Virus hoax targets Napster users

Fake message promises American Independence Day trouble for music pirates

A hoax virus warning is circulating on the Internet, threatening computer users who have downloaded unauthorised music from the Web that their PCs will go haywire on American Independence Day, later this week.

A message has been posted on several newsgroups saying that "music fans around the planet will receive a shocking surprise on their computers on American Independence Day, 4 July, but only if they have downloaded unauthorised songs from Napster, Gnutella or other file swapping applications on the Internet."

The crackers responsible for the hoax claim to have buried "a new hybrid computer code" dubbed MusicPanel inside MP3 files of 500 popular tunes. Over the past eight months, unsuspecting "song thieves" using the free peer-to-peer file-swapping services Napster and Gnutella, will have downloaded this embedded virus onto their own PC.

The hoax claims that song-swappers "will find their illicit music unusable and their computers frozen due to the time release of this bomb".

But virus experts are positive that this warning should be ignored. "It's a hoax -- there is no risk whatsoever to computer users," said Mark Read, systems security analyst for computer security company MIS Corporate Defence Solutions.

MP3 files cannot execute by themselves, and therefore cannot have computer viruses embedded in them. "The only case where Trojan Horses like this work is in executable files, or... Shockwave Flash files," explained Read. "MP3 files need applications to run them, like WinAmp."

The hoax is thought to have originated from Australia, developed by disgruntled musicians angry about music piracy on the Net.

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